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I finally watched the Oscars last night. Of course, I’d heard about Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock because of a joke Smith’s wife didn’t like. It was an ugly incident, but fortunately Chris Rock kept his cool. Hollywood loves itself, much like America loves itself, and an A-list actor like Will Smith can pretty much get away with anything, including assaulting one of the hosts for a joke that, though apparently well-intended, obviously miscarried. Smith never apologized during the show, though he finally issued a pro forma apology yesterday once he figured out that public opinion was against him.Hollywood, the Oscars, and America

I’m a movie buff, and I’ve always enjoyed watching the Oscars, but each year the shows get tackier, sleazier, and more morally repugnant. As my wife said this morning, you see a lot of sick people at the Oscars with no morals and apparently no souls.

A rare moment of grace at the Oscars, as Lady Gaga helps Liza Minnelli announce the award for best picture (Photo by Christopher Polk)

A rare moment of grace at the Oscars, as Lady Gaga helps Liza Minnelli announce the award for best picture (Photo by Christopher Polk)

I did want to mention one oversight at the Oscars. Now, I have to admit I didn’t listen to every word of every acceptance speech, but those I did hear all had one glaring omission: None of the Oscar winners thanked the fans, the movie-goers, the ones who truly pay them and support them. Instead, the winners thanked the usual suspects: agents, mentors, producers, big companies like Apple and Disney and Netflix, with occasional references to parents and to God. After slapping Chris Rock, Will Smith blubbered on about how he was all about serving God and love, apparently seeing no contradiction between his words and his deeds.

Of course, the Oscars are always a self-indulgent spectacle, always an exercise in narcissism and self-promotion. But would it really hurt the Oscar winners to take a few moments to thank their fans and movie-goers, especially when going to the movies was a bit risky given the Covid-19 pandemic? Instead, I heard talk of how brave they all were for continuing to make movies during the pandemic.

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Again, I’m a big movie fan, and I don’t dismiss their artistry and often their cultural significance. At their best, movies can truly inspire us; they can help to open doors to new worlds; they are truly part of the human experience. What’s truly sad is how the Oscars and Hollywood’s yearly celebration of itself actually diminishes the movies rather than showcasing and enhancing them.

The Oscars should go the way of the Emmy Awards — they should simply disappear, having outlived their usefulness and having become something of an embarrassment.